By Ian McConnell

DEVELOPER Swilken Estates is poised to begin renovation and construction work on what is being hailed as the biggest retail and residential project in Inverness city centre in recent years.

With phase one of the project now complete, and 7 to 17 Union Street stripped back internally and externally to its original form, the developer said it was “poised to push the button” on the second phase. The planned £12.5 million development is on the site of the former Arnotts department store.

Swilken flagged the “proposed sympathetic restoration and preservation of listed buildings" on Union Street and Baron Taylor’s Street, dating back to 1863 and 1892 respectively.

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It said: “The project will bring original features back to life, such as shopfront detailing, spiral wrought iron staircases and exposed walls, with the original facade on Union Street restored to its former glory.”

Swilken added: “The historic properties at 33 to 41 Baron Taylor’s Street, which include one of the earliest steel-framed buildings in Scotland, will be given a major facelift as part of the development, bringing the original character of one of Inverness’s most atmospheric streets to the fore, creating unique retail, cafe or restaurant space.”

The developer said the project was “poised to receive vital Scottish Government funding that would see the plan realised by mid-2021”.Swilken noted the upper floors of the four-storey development would house 53 apartments for Highland Council and the Highland Housing Alliance, declaring this would provide “much-needed high quality new housing in the city centre”.

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The project would see the creation of six new retail units, four on Union Street and two fronting on to Baron Taylor’s Street.